Disney Park Tips From A Tween

For many years BabyGirl had a blog. While she still loves to write, it’s not her primary space so I’ve decided to share some of her posts. This is one she wrote awhile back, from the perspective of a pre-teen about spending time at a Disney park. I think she hits the highlights.

Disney Tips from a Tween

Here are a few things you SHOULD NOT do while at Disney:

Lunch:

Don’t go to eat lunch when everyone else is.  Not only will the restaurants be crowded, but you’ll be missing the opportunity to go on that attraction you wanted!  This can apply for basically all the parks, as long as the attractions normally have longer wait times.

Shoes:

Don’t wear any shoes you deem even slightly uncomfortable.  A lot of the time, I have seen people wearing uncomfortable-looking shoes, and they often complain and don’t have very much fun while they are at the parks.  Sneakers (tennis shoes, whatever you call them) are your best friend.  If you want to be a little more fashionable, you can go for sandals.  However, these sandals must be made for walking.  Any sandals won’t do, as some sandals aren’t made for long-term use.

Packing:

Don’t bring a huge bag with you in the park.  Only bring the necessities.  A phone, maybe an extra charger, a change of clothes (but really only if you go on a wet ride), ponchos, and a water bottle – it should be refillable, but if not that’s okay.  Not only will you have less weight on your back, you won’t annoy other guests by constantly banging into them!

Pictures:

Don’t take too many pictures.  A few pictures are okay; to capture the memories of going to Disney.  But if you are taking your phone out every five seconds to snap a photo of something, you need to stop.  Capture the important moments.  Don’t waste your memory on minuscule things that you won’t even care about in the long run.  And yes, I know that sounds harsh, but it’s easier on you if you don’t constantly feel pressured to take a picture of something.

Kids:

Don’t let your kids run wild and if you’re a kid reading this, listen to your parents.  Sure, this is Disney, so if they’re old enough to get food at a restaurant buffet, they can, but make sure you’re watching them.  I’ve heard a lot of website authors complaining about how parents at Disney let their kids run everywhere, and frankly, it’s annoying.  Don’t restrain them too much – let them have a chance to ‘capture all the Disney magic’, but you can’t let them just run around at risk of getting lost.

So, I hope these tips help you prepare for your trip to a Disney park. If you’re heading to Disney, take a moment to see one of the crazy things my family does when we go.

This article is a repost from BabyGirl’s no longer active blog.

Sara

6 Reasons To Choose Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort for Your Disney World Vacation

Sheraton Vistana Villas

For our annual summer pilgrimage to Central Florida one of the toughest questions is whether or not to stay on-site at Disney World. There are many options for both, but there are pros and cons that need to be weighed in determining if you stay on-property or off-site when you visit Disney World. Things like getting a rental car, paying for parking, and the logistics of getting around. And, while some people would never stay off-site and others would never stay on-property it’s a decision I go through every year.

We’ve stayed on-property many times and know which options work best for us if we do. Our favorite place to stay is the Grand Floridian. We’ve stayed there a few times and it’s always worked out well for us. But this time we’d be splitting our visit between Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando. This was our first visit to Universal Studios and while we knew we would be staying on-property because we were attending the Family Forward retreat at the Loews Portofino Resort our time at Disney was much more leisurely.

Having been to Disney World many times, the introduction of the new Fastpass+ system, BabyGirl being older and having a more active role in our planning, and the need for space, this year we chose to stay off-site at the Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort. Since off-site resorts can be a bit of a hit or miss proposition I researched every review site before making the decision. And we were definitely not disappointed.

Sheraton has a number of resorts in the area, but this one worked best for us based on price, location, and amenities. The big winner was being able to get to 2-bedroom villa that was in our budget and within our “no more than 10-minutes away” criteria. No, 3 people don’t really need a 2-bedroom villa. Especially when I’ve read about 5 people staying in some of the smallest rooms at the value resorts. But, vacations are highly personal and what works for my family may not be what works for others. For us, though, having a big place – it was 1,100 square feet – gave us all the space we wanted.

So why would we need 1,100 sq. ft. for a vacation? It definitely wasn’t a matter of need, more like want. And here’s my 6 reason we chose Sheraton Vistana Villages Resorts.

Sheraton Vistana Review

1. 2-Bedroom Villas – It’s OK to stay in a standard hotel room for a few nights. But for 10 nights? After awhile we all want out own space. Also, when BabyGirl goes to bed, CycleGuy and I are able to stay up late and work without bothering her. It’s also easier to get ready when you have two bathrooms!

2. Convenient Location – We were within our “less than 10-minutes” area, meaning we could get to any Disney Park, Downtown Disney, and the Disney Water Parks easily. The resort is also within a few minutes drive of grocery store, drug stores, shopping (hello Outlets!), and restaurants. It’s also convenient if you’re splitting your visit to other attractions in Central Florida.

3. Free WiFi – Connectivity is now a must rather than a “nice to have”. From BabyGirl wanting to stream movies, to CycleGuy and I still needing to do work, having complementary WiFi is just one less thing to worry about. And, unlike some resorts that say they have “free wifi” but charge a daily resort fee (that is not optional!), Sheraton Vistana Villages has no resort fee or other hidden fees.

4. Full Kitchen – This is a biggie for us. We’re breakfast people. Not going out for breakfast, but making breakfast kind of people. We don’t do this as a cost saver, rather it’s more of a convenience. When we hit the parks we don’t want to spend an hour of time grabbing breakfast. We’re fueled up and ready to keep up with crazy coaster tween the moment we arrive! Sheraton has everything you really need in a kitchen. It’s not fully stocked like home, but for a home-away-from-home for a week or two it’s pretty darn good.

5. In-Villa Laundry – OK, this may not be a big seller but I hate taking a ton of clothes when I travel. With many airlines limiting bags (we fly Southwest so it’s not really an issue – love you SWA!) so you may have to consider doing laundry. I’ve never been a fan of laundry mats but I’ll do ’em if I have to. Having a washer and dryer in the villa is so convenient. I was able to wash clothes without worrying that someone will steal my things or having to camp out in an icky laundry room for a few hours.

6. Housekeeping Optional – this may not be a big deal for most, but for us it was good to have the option. If daily housekeeping (they’ll still give  you towels if you need them) isn’t your thing there is a discount provided. Some people don’t like other people coming in to their hotel, even if it’s to clean up. And for most of us, we don’t change out our linens daily and don’t need it done when we travel. Yes, I love being taken care of when I travel. And I’m not about to take a bunch of extra time to play housekeeper. But if you’re doing to decline daily housekeeping why not get some benefit. Right?

Sheraton Vistana Villas Review

There are plenty of other reasons, like the multiple pools, fitness center, free parking, market, restaurants, and on-site spa. I liked having the gated entry. It was nice to “come home” at night and be welcomed back. Few places off-site are going to compare to the Grand Floridian, and I hear that a few times from BabyGirl. But she liked having her own room and it feeling more like home. We get up early to hit the parks so having a place to relax and get a good night sleep is important.

Next time you’re starting to plan for your trip to Disney World, Universal Orlando, Sea World, or any other destination in Central Florida, check availability at the Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort. We’re pretty picky and if both CycleGuy and BabyGirl say they’d stay again, then it’s a winner!

Image Credit: Starwood Hotels & Resorts (because I was lame and didn’t take any decent photos!)
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. And even though there is no requirement I tell you this, I just want to make it clear.

Sara

Why I Can’t Go On Disney’s Carousel of Progress Again

 Carousel of Progress

One of the iconic attractions at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida, the Carousel of Progress takes you through the 20th century to see how technology changes and improves our lives. It’s one of my most favorite non-ride attractions (yes, I do  have to get that specific) at Magic Kingdom. It debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York then was moved to Disneyland until 1973. I never saw it there but always heard about it. It was replaced by another of my favorites, America Sings.

Anyway, never having been on Carousel of Progress when I finally went to Walt Disney World in 2007 it was top of my list. Going in August, I knew CycleGuy and BabyGirl wouldn’t mind getting out of the heat for about 20 minutes. It was a truly magical experience the first time we all loaded into the theater. Neither CycleGuy nor BabyGirl knew much about it, other than it was one of the goofy things I thought was awesome.

Every time we’ve been at Magic Kingdom, Carousel of Progress is always on the touring plan. Sometimes twice if I’m waiting for them to go through Space Mountain for the 93rd time that day. And, for the most part, both CycleGuy and BabyGirl indulged me and went with me even though I would sing along. (note: I don’t sing along if other people are in the theater, but usually that’s not an issue)

If you’ve never been on the Carousel of Progress, you’re missing out! It’s a 21-minute show about technology in the home and how it changed over the 20th century. Sounds cool, right. Well, except that it was made in the early 60s so the “future” part is a bit hokey to some degree. This is said to be one of Walt’s favorite attractions. You can tell he was greatly involved with it by the animatronics, the music, and the idea about technology in the future.

So, why won’t I visit it even though it’s one of my favorite parts of Disney? Let me ask you this. Have you ever gone to Disney and got stuck on a ride? A lot of people have. I’ve been stuck on Space Mountain so many times it’s not even funny (although I do like the old seats better than the new ones). When Disneyland had the Skyway (yet, those colorful buckets in the sky) I spent many an hour with a bird’s-eye view of the park. (I wish I had a cell phone then!) Name the ride at Disneyland and I’ve probably be stuck on it. Not so much at Walt Disney World, but then I’ve only been there about 8 times.

Anyway, if there’s one attraction you don’t want to get stuck on it’s Carousel of Progress. Trust me! See, in Carousel of Progress there is a song that plays at the beginning, the end, and as each decade progresses. Sounds simple, right? And it’s a fun song written by the Award-winning Sherman brothers. “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” is a fun little ditty that you’ll easily sing along with. That is, you’ll probably only sing along with it about the first 50 times you hear it played in a row.

There we were, with about 5 or 6 other guests, in the Carousel of Progress theater enjoying listening to Father (John, voiced by legendary Country singer Jean Shepherd) and waiting for the special treat when Cousin Orville shows up (he’s voiced by the truly legendary Mel Blanc!) when there was an abrupt stop. We were stuck! And, like most Disney attractions there is a protocol and you don’t just get up and leave. For Carousel of Progress, there’s an issue with the doors since the entire theater rotates. The cast members needed to realign the doors so we could exit safely.

So we sat there. Sure it was nice and cool and dark. A welcomed respite from the heat and humidity of an Orlando summer day. And we waited patiently, while the soundtrack played through and finished. Then it started again. There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. All 21-minutes of the show, for the second time. Only this time we’re just sitting there in the dim theater. Then it started again. For the third time. And the fourth. And the fifth.

If you’re counting, that’s 21-minutes of a show listened to five consecutive times. You don’t need to be a math wizard to realize that’s a lot of great big beautiful tomorrows. I think CycleGuy and BabyGirl fell asleep. I know the other family that was in there did. While the cast members were great and kept working to reset the doors, they too were probably getting tired of hearing the song. And they work there and listen to it over and over again, everyday!

With a heave-ho, some Disney magic, a little help from some walkie-talkie’d cast members outside, we were soon escorted out into our own great big beautiful … day. There were no free fastpasses, no complimentary snacks, or a “See you soon!”. No, we were ushered out with a “Thanks for being patient!” And honestly, by that point, that’s all we wanted. There are only so many great big beautiful tomorrows you can hear sung about.

As each year has greeted us with plans to visit Walt Disney World again, I’m gently reminded that we’re not going on Carousel of Progress. So while I truly love this attraction, I think even Walt would give me a pass for a few years.

Are there any rides you just won’t go on any more?

Sara